Across the country, parents are taking back control of their children’s education. A recent Washington Post analysis shows a 51% increase in the number of homeschooled students over the past six years. As they note, this coincides with a 4% decrease in public school enrollment in the states the Post analyzed and “outpac[es] the 7 percent growth in private school enrollment.”
The last official federal estimate, in 2019, found 1.5 million homeschooled students in the U.S. The Post now estimates that “there are now between 1.9 million and 2.7 million home-schooled children in the United States.” Remarkably, that number surpasses the 1.7 million students in Catholic schools and isn’t far behind the 3.7 million in charter schools. Approximately 21% of private schools are Catholic in the United States.
When I was homeschooled, through grade six, our local homeschool community was small. It was largely made up of religious families and had small, parent-led co-ops where homeschooled students would meet and learn about specific subjects in a broader setting than their own homes. But even by my last year of homeschooling, the opportunities had grown and I participated in science classes beyond my mom’s ability (or desire) to teach, with a more regular classroom setting once or twice a week.
Now, the landscape has dramatically changed. The Post finds that “home schooling’s surging popularity crosses every measurable line of politics, geography and demographics.”
And for parents concerned about their children having a “normal” school experience, with extracurriculars like sports and music as well as social opportunities, many homeschooled students now have those same opportunities. The Post reports that some homeschool communities are building their own. In Hillsborough, Florida, “home-schooled kids play competitive sports. They put on full-scale productions of ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Les Miserables.’ They have high school graduation ceremonies, as well as a prom and homecoming dance.”
Parents cite concerns over “school shootings, bullying, and the general quality of the school environment” as top reasons for choosing homeschooling. With more choices available to parents through a greater infrastructure for homeschooling and expanded access to state funding that can be applied to home education (recently added or expanded in Arizona, Arkansas, Utah, West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Florida), more children will be receiving the quality education they deserve—instead of being stuck in residentially-assigned failing public schools.
Homeschooling, and school choice more broadly, offers parents the opportunity to choose the type of education that best suits their child’s unique needs. And the education freedom will pressure public schools, whose enrollment was already falling pre-pandemic, to improve and actually compete in the education market.